FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Gov. Andy Beshear gave an emotional response Tuesday to the “evil” and “vile” acts of hanging an effigy of him from a tree on the lawn of the Governor’s mansion Sunday, and vowed to continue to “build unity” in the state and to “not bow to terror.”
“It was an act of terror and fear,” Beshear said of the actions by what he called a “small group” known as the 3 Percenters who walked by barriers onto the mansion’s grounds and went on the porch “just a window pane away” and chanted.
“It is a small group trying to bully everyone else,” Beshear said, accusing some elected officials of emboldening the group by attending a previous rally with them.
“Right is right and wrong is wrong. You cannot fan the flames and then condemn the fire,” Beshear said of what he suggested were two-faced politicians. “They have to claim responsibility.”
He called it a message of intolerance and hate, noting when they hung the effigy, the protesters chanted the slogan Lincoln’s assassin said when he shot Lincoln.
“I will not be afraid , I will not be bullied, I will not back down,” the governor stated emphatically.
He noted his children, who are 9 and 10, were not at home at the time the protesters chanted on the mansion’s. Beshear is the first governor to move his family completely into the mansion in more than 30 years. He said they made the decision in an effort to promote unity.
“One of the things I never thought about was their personal safety,” he said of his family.
“If our unity scares a couple of people,” that’s good, Beshear concluded, noting security protocol and procedures at the mansion are being reviewed and groups might expect “a very different response the next time.”
He said he appreciated the “caring community” response that came in a rally Monday afternoon.
“We are not moving out…we are not going to let a bunch of jerks change the way we are living our life,” he said in response to a question.
He also said he would leave any question about the possibility of the protesters who hung the effigy being charged with a hate crime. “I do look forward to hearing from them,” Beshear said, also noting a state senator “fired up” the group with his previous comments in support of the group.
He also said state lawmakers fueled the fire, that turned a protest into what he called a “mob” Sunday.
“They didn’t get there alone. They have been embraced and emboldened by elected leaders that rallied with them, weeks before,” Beshear said.
One lawmaker at the forefront, Republican Rep. Savannah Maddox from Dry Ridge, has been seen at several ‘Freedom Rallies’ in the past.
She released a statement Tuesday night that confirms she was not at the rally Sunday.
“His remarks are part of a greater initiative that he has unveiled in conjunction with the Kentucky Democratic Party to deflect responsibility for the economic turmoil his actions have created,” Maddox said. “This concerted effort to shift blame onto legislators who have stood by Kentuckians who are hurting is a reflection of this administration’s unwillingness to face the fact that Kentucky ranks number one in unemployment in the nation, with 40 percent of our workforce out of a job. Neither I, nor any of the legislators he referred to were present at Sunday’s rally – and I stand in unison with the House Majority Caucus in condemning all acts of hatred in the context of political discourse.”
Rep. Kim King, a Republican from Harrodsburg, has also attended past ‘Freedom Rallies,’ but was not present Sunday. Tuesday she responded to Gov. Beshear’s pointed finger.
“I’m not responsible and won’t accept the blame,” Rep. King said.
The governor says the group behind the effigy is a right-wing militia called the Kentucky 3 Percenters. A spokeswoman for the group told the Louisville Courier-Journal that although a member of the group helped hang the effigy, she says it wasn’t the group’s idea and if she had known about it ahead of time, she would have tried to stop it. She also told the newspaper the group doesn’t condone violence of any kind and that the group is not a militia, but would be ready if called.